With 5+ weeks to go until the Pa. primary, voters have some time to rustle through the campaign spin and reflect on some thoughtful comments about the candidates.
Consider the following. Cass Sunstein is a prolific and highly respected legal scholar who just authored an article, “The Obama I Know,” in today’s (3/16) Chicago Tribune (see link at bottom of post). It deserves to be read.
For me, Sunstein’s article helps provide an answer to the questions voters are still wrestling with:
Is Obama a flash in the pan? Is he ready to be Commander in Chief? Does he posses the intellect and judgment to be president?
Consider Sunstein’s anecdote about Obama’s position on the FISA debate, which Sunstein had written about. This anecdote reveals a great deal about how Obama thinks about issues.
In about 20 minutes, he and I investigated the legal details. He asked me to explore all sorts of issues: the president’s power as commander in chief, the Constitution’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the Authorization for Use of Military Force and more.
Obama wanted to consider the best possible defense of what Bush had done. To every argument I made, he listened and offered a counterargument. After the issue had been exhausted, Obama said he thought the program was illegal, but now had a better understanding of both sides. He thanked me for my time.
This was a pretty amazing conversation, not only because of Obama’s mastery of the legal details, but also because many prominent Democratic leaders had already blasted the Bush initiative as blatantly illegal. He did not want to take a public position until he had listened to, and explored, what might be said on the other side.
In addition to having an incredibly powerful and curious intellect, Obama is a fundamentally decent human being.
But at the University of Chicago, Obama is liked and admired by both Republicans and Democrats. Some local Reagan enthusiasts are Obama supporters. Why? It doesn’t hurt that he’s a great guy, with a personal touch and a lot of warmth. It certainly helps that he is exceptionally able.
But niceness and ability are only part of the story. Obama has a genuinely independent mind, he’s a terrific listener and he goes wherever reason takes him.
At a moment in this primary season when voters are perhaps being overwhelmed by a Clinton and McCain inspired fear narrative against Obama, it is important to consider that even if you do not agree with him on all the issues, this guy is the real thing when it comes to having balance, intellect and judgment. Obama’s qualities are all the more relevant in contrast to President Bush, who lacks them all.
I can think of only a few other candidates for the democratic nomination during the past 50 years that have had this combination of integrity, intellect– Adlai Stevenson (’52, ’56)– and “personableness”– Mo Udall (’76)– (both men had the integrity and intellect, but adlai lacked mo’s and barack’s personal qualities) They didn’t make it, but a majority of democratic voters thus far agree with Sunstein and think Obama just might offer the sort of leadership that american people have craved for some time.